15 steps to refine your personal style

Everyone has a personal style whether they know it or not. However, having “good style” is like a craft that can be learned and honed to showcase exactly how you want to appear in the world.

Refining your style and developing a look that is tasteful, authentic and true to you is one of the best communication tools you can have. We’ve all heard that first impressions are everything, but I am convinced that style is deeper than a fleeting impression, it’s something that can also help us to become the best version of ourselves. 

Refining your style however it a process and it cannot be done overnight. So if you’re not sure where to start in order to refine your personal style and develop good taste, then this is the right place for you. 

What is a refined personal style?

A refined style is one that has been intentionally crafted to eliminate unwanted or unnecessary elements and create an elegant, cultured appearance that is punctuated by good taste. It should express a concentrated snapshot of your personal style preferences and decisions. 

Not only does refining your personal style help you to build a sophisticated wardrobe but it will also help you to streamline your wardrobe so that you can develop a refined signature look that is unique to you.

However, refining your style does not necessarily mean that you have to limit or restrict what colors, patterns or fabrics you wear. The whole idea is to learn how to be flexible in your wardrobe while staying true to your own personal style preference. So here are some concrete steps on how you can look more refined.

Before we begin here are just some of my favorite well-known women who have a refined sense of style

How To Refine Your Personal Style

1. Pinpoint inspiration 

Whether or not you already have a sense of what your personal style is or not, this is a very useful step in your journey to a much more elegant and refined personal style. Sometimes there are outfits that look nice and then sometimes there are outfits that instantly speak to who we are or who we want to become.

Pinterest is by far the best tool to use for gathering a database of images that speak to you and make it easy to then review, sort and organise into boards and sections so that you can get a clear understanding of what styles resonate with you. 

Once they are grouped you can start to go through and identify what the common threads are, and what kind of message they’re communicating. It’s much more valuable to get an understanding of what it is that you want to communicate through your style rather than just wearing a nice or trendy outfit. If you have a mix of different styles, that’s okay too! You don’t have to pick one style for life. The most important thing is to just understand the message it’s conveying, its silhouettes, its color palette, its accessories, its patterns & prints, its seasonal changes, its staples & wardrobe essentials etc.  

With this exercise it’s important to balance your expectations with the more practical side to your daily lifestyle so that it can act as a valuable source of information for you as you move on through the next steps. With that in mind, be sure to only pin the styles that you would actually wear and not just something you like on other people.

Here are some questions to ask yourself once you have a good amount of saved pins.

  1. What is the primary fashion style of each board?
  2. Why does this style speak to me?
  3. Why do the clothes communicate that message to me?
  4. What are the most dominant colors, patterns, textures, prints & fabrics?
  5. What kind of accessories are used?
  6. Would I wear any of these outfits and when?
  7. Do I already have any of these clothes/accessories in my closet? 
(You can also follow my Pinterest board for inspiration on sophisticated feminine style and conscious style & fashion)

2. Find your signature silhouettes

Before you consider anything else, it’s really important to gain an understanding of what silhouettes suit your particular body shape, match your style preferences, and enhance your best features.

For example, a-line skirts are a powerful way to create a cinched waist and an instant hourglass figure, but if you are not inclined to wear skirts, then it’s important to have a clear vision of how the silhouette can be achieved with other clothing, like high-waisted pants, belts, wrap blouses for example.

If you’re not sure about what types of silhouettes you like, you can check out this post on some of the best classic silhouettes for women and how to wear them today.

3. Develop a tailored color palette

The next step is to find the colours that not only match your theoretical style preferences but that also suit your particular skin tone, hair and eye colour etc. It’s important to remember that refining your style does not mean you need to look like everyone else, but it means tailoring your wardrobe so that it complements your unique features.

Related: What colors are classy, elegant and stylish.

However, as a universal rule, create a foundation of the best neutral colors for you (black, white, grey and some shade of nude/beige usually work on everyone). Next, select a range of pastel or soft colors that can help to diversify those outfits and finally, select two or three of your favourite bold colors that suit you best in order to incorporate some individual statement pieces like wool coats or dresses etc.. By having a strong set of basics in neutral solid colors you should be able to find it easier to match with bold colors as well.

4. Timeless fabric combinations

So now that you have an idea what silhouettes and colors you like and suit you best, fabric choice is another essential component of refining your personal style. 

Develop a more authentic connection with your style and incorporate more natural fibre fabrics like genuine leather, pure cotton and silk. The quality and authenticity of well made natural fabrics can almost instantly enhance and elevate your outfits.

Learning how to combine these fabrics is another great way to make your outfits look intentional and will set them apart from fast fashion clothes which mosty use cheap synthetic fabrics. High quality natural fabrics will also last much longer in your wardrobe and can make super versatile investment pieces.

Related: Fabrics that work well together: Timeless fabric combinations

5. Get rid of the dead weight in your wardrobe

Once you have done all your research, it’s time to assess your current wardrobe. Do your current clothes reflect your refined style vision? If the answer is a straight no then it’s time to start clearing out. You can sell old clothes that still have some use on Dpop, Facebook Marketplace, donate them to a charity shop or recycle them at a clothes bank if needed. One way or another, we need to declutter in order to see what you have already that can work and to make space in your mind and your wardrobe for newer pieces.

It’s also a good opportunity to assess the quality of your garments. If most of your blouses have faded or are torn or fraying at the seams, it’s time to reconsider their presence in your wardrobe. A refined style is also about improving the overall quality of your outfits, so it’s important to be honest and accept when it’s time to let go of clothing that does not meet your standards anymore. 

refine your personal style organize your wardrobe

6. Learn to recognise quality

Speaking of quality, we’ve all heard the saying “I’ve got expensive taste” right? Well, very few people actually knows what that means in reality. It’s become synonymous with high price tags, but the truth is many women who are able to afford the most expensive items do not even know why they are expensive or what makes them high-quality in the first place.

This is a great skill to learn if you want to refine your personal style because you will be able to recognise high-quality even when there is no price tag. It’s also a very useful skill to have if you like thrift shopping because you should be able to find some amazing bargains.

Related: What are considered luxury handbags – The luxury hierarchy 
Related: How to have expensive taste (authentically)

7. No need to follow the crowd

When you are just starting to refine your personal style it doesn’t mean you have to stear clear of fast fashion brands and fashion trends completely. The whole point of developing your personal style is to look good, feel good and enjoy it. So if you like certain trends then why not find a clever and unique way to integrate them into your outfits in a way that also reflects your personality.  

If you are going to do this, I would strongly advise you to adapt the trend in a moderate way and incorporate it into your outfits gently so that it looks relevant without being cliché. Try not to buy trendy clothes from fast fashion stores however, as they are designed to be transient both in terms of their design and durability. 

These garments are also worn by the masses during the exact same season so it’s easy to look like you’re following the crowd. Try to find some high-quality stores that also do trends as you’re more likely to find something that’s higher-quality, more versatile and unique.

However, regardless of where you shop, the most important question to ask yourself is, would you wear the garment after one season? If the answer is no, then save your money for other things.

8. Prioritise structure and tailored fit

Fit is super important when it comes to refining your style. You can do all the other steps but if your clothes are a poor fit then it will undo all your hard work. So if there is a garment that you absolutely love but it doesn’t feel right on your body then I would highly recommend to get it tailored or find a service that can custom make it.

At the very least, just make sure that you are comfortable in whatever you are wearing. Make sure that it’s not too baggy or tight, too short or trailing along the ground. This is not to say that you can’t wear something that is intentionally cropped or oversized but it should still be in the right proportions for your body so that it doesn’t look like it’s swimming on you or like it got shrunk in the washing machine. 

9. Focus on footwear

It always depends on the occasion but footwear really has the power to change a whole outfit instantly. It’s important to be aware of this when you are refining your style, but you also need to be realistic and assess your lifestyle needs. Have some footwear options that are sophisticated and smart without necessarily being stilettos or high-heels.

Sometimes, I see women wearing stylish outfits but their choice of footwear instantly dresses them down. Sneakers can look fine with some outfits but wearing them with everything just because they’re comfortable won’t help you refine your style. Instead, experiment with different types of shoes and build a selection of stylish flat footwear that you know is comfortable but that is also high-quality and durable too.

Related: What to wear if you can’t wear heels
refine your personal style inspiration stylish footwear

10. Maintain your wardrobe

Wearing clothing that is not only stylish but also presentable is paramount if you’re serious about refining your style. That means no loose threads, hems, tears, rips, stains or dirt etc. I know it seems pretty obvious but I’m intentionally emphasising the importance of maintaining your clothes and keeping a high standard when it comes to what you wear.

Preserving quality starts by keeping your closet organized and properly cleaning or repairing your items as soon as possible when needed. Cleaning your garments appropriately is also worth mentioning because there is no point in investing in 100% silk blouses if you wash them at 60 degrees. 

One inconvenient truth here is that, the more you wash clothes the faster they wear or fade. To prevent this, I recommend purchasing natural fibre garments that are super breathable. They tend to stay fresh for much longer so can be washed less often, preserving them for much longer in your closet.

However natural fibre fabrics tend to crease easily so I would recommend getting a good clothes steamer that will help make sure you look fresh and on point. Steaming your clothes is also more gentle than ironing and will also help to maintain their condition.

refine your personal style maintain quality of your clothes wardrobe

11. Explore niche brands

This is one of my favourite parts of refining your style. Luxury items are great, but you do not need to be dressed head to toe in designer clothes everyday to be refined or stylish. In fact, quite the opposite. Many women rely heavily on branded luxury items to communicate “a sense of style” instead of “their own sense of style”. 

There has always been something odd to me about a woman wearing a Lady Dior bag with a poorly designed H&M coat. While mixing and matching brands is perfectly fine, it’s important to learn how to strike the right balance with different garments and accessories if you want to refine your personal style and not just be a walking billboard. 

Don’t be afraid to explore and find specialised niche brands that align with your personal style. Everything from lingerie, to handbags, to jewelry to pyjamas, there are really innovative brands and talented designers out there creating high-quality, unique products just waiting to be discovered.

12. Ditch the fashion jewerly

I take a hard stand on this when it comes to refining your style. Fashion jewelry including gold plated and gold filled jewelry is not worth your money as it’s essentially impossible to repair and is prone to cracking and tarnishing. Fine jewelry (at least 10K gold or sterling silver) is much stronger than fashion jewelry and does not tarnish with proper care or cause skin discolouration. 

Fine jewelry is authentic and made with precious metals so can be repaired if needed which means it can be kept for years and even passed down through generations. It does come at an elevated price point but due to its longevity and its ability to retain its value, it can be well worth the investment. In my view it’s an essential component of a long-lasting wardrobe and if you want to get serious about refining your personal style, then I really recommend starting your own fine jewelry collection too.

refine your personal style details watches jewerly

13. Pay attention to detail

Just like it suggests, an elegant and refined personal style means there should be an acute attention to detail. This includes high-quality and beautifully crafted accessories like belts, watches, sunglasses, bags, etc. 

But it also includes even finer details like what hairstyle, make-up or nail color you choose with a particular outfit. No matter what your personal style is, those details are equally essential when it comes to looking refined and looking your best. 

Each of these details is a personal choice and is another way to make your style unique, memorable and put together. With that in mind, try not to neglect your personal beauty or grooming routines. View them as an integral part of your personal style and take pride in those details and self care.

refine your personal style makeup hair nails skin beauty

14. Have some scents.

I can’t ignore the important a good scent when it comes to style. In the real world your style is not captured in 2D, it also emcompasses your presence and the atmosphere that surrounds you. In order to enhance that ephemeral part of your style, I recommend building a collection of beautiful scents that work appropriately for the season and situation you are in. 

You do not have to cover yourself head to toe in a sickly sweet Eau de Parfum however, there are some beautiful natural scents that can be worn daily and will enhance your outfit. Some scents are perfect for the summer and others for winter, and it’s important to take note of that when deciding what fragrance to pair with your outfit.

For example, wearing a warm honey and gourd fragrance in the heat of the summer doesn’t work well, and doesn’t showcase your ability to be thoughtful and intentional about your style. If you’re not a perfume person, that’s okay too. Good hygiene can also go a long way to complementing and refining your style.

15. Engage with the world of style

And finally, the last step in refining your personal style, is one that should never end. Try to actively engage with the world of fashion, learn about style from history, from iconic fashion houses and their talented designers too. The more you become engaged and share your comments, questions or opinions on style and fashion in general, the more you will become entrenched in that world and the more ingrained it will become in your own style.

Here are a few ways you can do this effectively:

  1. Sign up to receive email newsletters from top fashion magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Instyle and Vanity Fair.
  2. Discover and follow your favourite style inspirations on social media (If you’d like to keep updated on my style inspiration you can follow me on instagram)
  3. Watch fashion documentaries and explanation videos on youtube. Here are some cool channels that I like to watch myself: Dior, HauteLeMode and Zoe Hong.
  4. Start your own inspiration board on Pinterest and update it regularly
  5. Snap pics of your own outfit experiments
  6. Start to plan whole outfits from scratch even if they are based on another image, see how close you can get to it without knowing where the clothes in the image are from.
  7. Read helpful fashion books (some of them can also make great coffee table books). Here are five recommended books to get you started.

In order to make your personal style more refined you need to start getting specific about what styles you like and what you want to communicate through your style. When you have a good idea of what that means for you, the other steps are universal and become much easier to follow.

Honing your style, building a wardrobe of elegant high-quality clothing and taking care of yourself is so enjoyable when you put your mind to it and hopefully these steps will give you a good idea on how to get started. I hope you found this helpful. I would love to see how you use the tips in this article to enhance your style so please please tag me on Instagram, Tiktok or Pinterest or you can or send me a message because I would love to see! 

About the author 

Mish has a Masters in Fine Art and she has an interest in classical design, history and culture. She loves to analyze fashion and style through this lens to help people develop authentic personal style.